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Full text of "Verdict On India"

52                                     VERDICT OX INDIA
surrounded by a sort of Balkan confederation of wild and hostile
States who have been kept in comparative order only by the Con-
stant vigilance of a few British.. .who, in their turn, were forced to
adapt and modify the nature of their rule according to the nature
of the tribesmen concerned. It was not quite so simple as it seemed
at home, over the quiet firesides of Hampstead.
Consider, for example, the administration of the law. A people
less wise in government than the British would have attempted to
enforce the British legal code throughout the Wali's dominions.
Obviously, in theory, we should have done so ; if India is a nation,
every member of that nation should be subject to the same law.
However, the British, who are always at their best when they
forget about theories and trust to their own sense of what is right
and expedient, have left the laws precisely as they found them.
eAnd a good thing too,9 said my friend. 'The laws here are
simply tribal customs. They're not codified, and the British have
no say in them, but they fit the people like a glove. They're
fanatically religious and when they take the oath in a criminal
case you can bet your life that they'll tell the truth. I've known
men accept a sentence of fourteen years* rigorous imprisonment
rather than take a false oath. Except, of course, the Wazirs*
They'd lie about anything.'
'There's another reason why the tribal custom is actually
better than British law in these parts. That's because of the
Mullahs.. .the priests who are the real leaders. A mullah can
give a man dispensation if he takes a false oath against the
British government, but he can't give dispensation if he takes a
false oath against the tribal custom. The liar must go to hell,
and the mullah can't do anything about it.5
It might have been profitable to pursue the subject, but by
now we were approaching the outskirts of the little town of Swat.
I saw some neat buildings—a hospital, a school, a mosque, and
then a pleasant country house which proved to be the palace.
If It had not been for the soaring purple mountains that sur-
rounded us, and the sheets of pink and white striped tulips, that
grew wild in. the meadows, we might have been in. Sussex*